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The balance of life in Westport

De Facto

The council approach to civic amenities is often contradictory 


DeFacto
Liamy MacNally

Last week, letters to this paper from Keith Martin and Máirín Byrne (Comment & Opinion, Your View, page 27) highlighted the precarious balance of life in Westport. The reality is that the balance has a much broader reflection.
Mr Martin stated: ‘… glass bottle banks have been pushed further and further away from the shops that sell the bottles’. How true is that! They take up valuable car park space, so they are moved to residential areas without as much as a ‘by your leave’. Residents pay the price for business decisions.
Why not make the retailers more responsible for their decisions to stock certain products and packaging? In fairness, some businesses recently introduced package-recycling schemes. Why always ‘blame’ the consumer and then tax them, like the plastic bag levy and sugar tax? The consumer has no say in manufacturing.
Ms Byrne’s letter stated that she was ‘very surprised at the general untidiness of the streets: cigarette butts, papers and general rubbish’. Happy to pick up some of the papers she noticed, ‘there were no bins within my line of sight’. Bins in Westport are in the ‘hens teeth’ category. They are an endangered species.
Ms Byrne then noticed the grasslands in the green in front of St Mary’s Crescent. The council decided that, along with other residential greens, it has become part of a Biodiversity Plan (but not at The Pond or on approach roads!). Grass and (the lesser spotted) flowers are being allowed to grow to facilitate pollinators. A noble gesture often mooted in this column. However…
Residential parks also demand children’s play areas. Why did the council not cut the grass in the park centres to facilitate children? It was another council decision taken without local consultation. Balance is the answer and keeps all sides happy.
We hope and pray that the council will desist from spraying glyphosate-filled weedkillers (like Roundup) around the town this year as part of the Biodiversity Plan. This is doing untold damage to people and animals. The World Health Organisation deemed glyphosate a probable carcinogen in 2015. It has shown up in most of the foodstuffs tested by the USA Food and Drug Administration. One study (Journal of American Medical Association) found it in 70 percent of people.
The council can deliver. Look at the Leeson Centre for business start-ups. The council is a vital partner in this worthwhile project. Ann Moore and Dermott Langan were two of the council driving forces with the Multi-Agency Enterprise Company, alongside business people and the Chamber of Commerce.
We need more of the likes of Ann and Dermott to deal with ongoing concerns over council projects. The continuing shambolic council dealings over the old convent are still a major annoyance. Serious access issues remain at The Point and Bertra. Why not enhance them and make them available to all rather than just the adventurous?
Access to Bertra Beach is simply not possible for wheelchair users or older people. While car-parking facilities abound there are huge issues with beach and water access. With summer upon us and equality laws flourishing could the council facilitate older and wheelchair bound people?
There are wheelchair access signs in Bertra. However, you would need a James Bond style souped-up wheelchair with a fully trained grid team to even attempt the trip from the car park to the beach access point.
For people like my 93-year-old father the walk from Bertra car park to the beach is out of the question. He cannot access the waters where he taught hundreds of children swimming and lifesaving lessons, long before the council or Irish Water Safety came on board. The same applies to The Point. The irony is not lost on him. He is also a former councillor.
In Old Head, a plethora of public signs stare you down at the beach wheelchair access point. Seating is inaccessible unless you’re good at the high jump. There is no ramp, only step access. Simple issues that impede enjoyment, yet could be resolved in a couple of hours.
In her letter last week, Máirín Byrne said “It is because I love Westport and the surrounding area that I have bothered to write.” Ditto.
  

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